OAKLAND — Three times in a row on Friday, Matt Chapman ranged back of third base, and behind the coaching box, fielded a grounder and fired a strike to first. Granted, nobody else was on the field, and he was wearing shorts — not baseball pants — but the Oakland Athletics third baseman’s injured right hand certainly looks fine, and it felt fine both in the field, and at the plate.
“Oh, I don’t know, I don’t think I have much to tell you,” Chapman joked in the clubhouse. “For a few days now, I’ve been throwing and taking ground balls. Today was the first day that I hit since the cortisone shot [on Monday].”
On Friday, he took 30 swings off a tee for the first time since taking the second, and said it “felt good.” The bone growth in his right hand has been causing bruising and swelling has been somewhat ameliorated by a pair of shots Chapman has taken since going on the disabled list on June 16.
“It’s not too big of a sample size, but it felt good, and we’ll just keep progressing from there,” Chapman said. “It’s hard to tell, but it felt the best it’s felt.”
Even though he’s been out nearly two weeks, Chapman still leads the Major Leagues in defensive runs saved, and defensive wins above replacement (2.17, 3.85 overall WAR). He was also having a productive season at the plate, with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in 69 games.
Manager Bob Melvin said that Chapman will take full on-field batting practice on Sunday.
“If there’s nothing crazy going on, and the cortisone does what it’s supposed to do, I’ll be ready to play soon. So far, so good,” Chapman said.
He could return as soon as Tuesday’s series opener against the San Diego Padres, if he’s feeling good after the Sunday BP session. A rehab stint will be talked about, but is far from an ironclad certainty.
“We’re looking for progression every day,” Melvin said. “He’ll take live batting practice on Sunday, and that’ll tell us a lot about where he’ll be. It’s really just day-to-day, and if he feels good one day, then we’ll push it a little bit the next. I think after Sunday, we’ll have a better idea of the timetable for when he’ll be back.”
It’s not like the Athletics have been too broken up with Chapman on the shelf. They’re 8-2 since Jed Lowrie has eased back into third base, and Chapman’s absence has allowed Oakland (44-38) to give extended run to top prospect Franklin Barreto. Since his latest call-up, Barreto has hit a respectable .256 with a .813 OPS, three home runs, two doubles and 10 RBIs in 10 games.
“We’d always had a good feeling about him,” Melvin said. “It was just getting him an opportunity.”
He owned a .288 career batting average in the minors, and hit .290 in 2017 with Triple-A Nashville. But, between last season and his first call-up this season, Barreto had gone 14-for-78 (.179).
“We all know he’s a terrific player and an exciting player, because of what he brings to the table,” Melvin said. “He’s fast, he can play short and second base, he’s got some power for a guy that probably doesn’t look like he has some power. He brings some excitement to the lineup, so being able to get him multiple at-bats and multiple games in a row, I think, helps.”
Melvin said that starter Edwin Jackson — who is on his record 13th big league club — has fit in “right away.”
It certainly helps that he allowed just one run and no walks in six innings against the Chicago White Sox during the last road trip.
“He has experience walking into a clubhouse for the first time, and that can be a difficult thing for anybody,” said Melvin, who played for seven different teams during his big league playing career. “The minute he walked in, it looked like he was at home, and once you get out there and you perform well, too, it makes you feel that much closer to your teammates, and at a quicker pace.”
Jackson will start for the A’s for the second time on Saturday against the Cleveland Indians.
Jackson will likely remain a part of the rotation for the foreseeable future, what with the state Oakland’s injured starters.
Trevor Cahill (Achilles) threw 30 pitches in the bullpen on Friday, and felt good. He will either throw another lengthy bullpen, or a simulated game, next. He’s still not close to returning (after suffering the injury on June 2), but he is at least progressing. Andrew Triggs, on the other hand, is not.
“Triggs hit a little bump in the road again,” Melvin said. “His rehab’s been stalled again. He’s still feeling a little bit of tingling in his fingers, so he’s going to see another doc and get a second opinion early next week, but we’ve got to shut him down here.”
Designated hitter Khris Davis has signaled his openness to taking part in the Home Run Derby to the San Francisco Chronicle, and with the most home runs in the big leagues since the start of the 2016 season, it’s hard to make a case against it, even for Melvin, who wasn’t too keen on spending his All-Star break throwing batting practice in Washington, D.C.
“I had heard through the grapevine that I would have to show up with him,” said Melvin, who throws batting practice to Davis every day. “I’m not sure that that would be the case, but I think it would be terrific, because a lot of the country, the baseball world, doesn’t know as much about Khris Davis as they should.”
What if Davis won’t go without Melvin?
“[Yoenis] Cespedes said the same thing, and I didn’t go, and Mike Gallego became a superstar batting practice pitcher because of it,” Melvin said. “We have plenty of guys here who could handle that, if that’s the case.”
Unlike most other Home Run Derby participants, Davis is a true spray hitter, and has shown equal power to all fields. Of his 20 home runs this season, Davis has hit eight to straightaway right field, six to center and eight to left.
“I think he would be one of the more entertaining guys, if he does get elected to it, or chooses to do it,” Melvin said.
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